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Rangel looks to suck our pockets dry

Just in time for Halloween comes House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel - henceforth known as Count Rangula - with a bill that would suck more blood from the American taxpayers.

Like Dracula the vampire, Count Rangula is cagey about his intentions, luring his victims (us) with promises of 'reforming' the tax code.

Raise your hand if you believe we are not turning enough of our income over to government. Raise your other hand if you think government is too small and spends too little.

Tax revenues are at a record high, and the deficit is shrinking under the Bush tax cuts. Since the policy is working - even in the middle of new spending by the former Republican majority and current Democratic majority - why does government require more of our money? Why can't they live within our means? Why do we allow government to get away with the fiction that everything it does is right and noble and true and if we resist paying for it, we are unholy and uncaring?

Why don't politicians ever ask us if we have enough money? Why don't they focus on the waste, fraud and abuse that so permeates government, no matter which party controls the White House and Congress? They can start by reforming Social Security and Medicare, but won't because of the demagoguery that surrounds every attempt to fix these soon-to-be bankrupt programs.

Predictably, Count Rangula promises to 'fix' a tax code that everyone hates and few understand. Vampires rely on deception. He includes just enough enticements, hoping we will buy the rest. But, according to The National Taxpayers Union (NTU), '... on balance, (the bill) is likely to extract more money from our economy and small businesses. That means fewer jobs, less income growth and bigger government.'

Count Rangula proposes to rid us of the dreadful Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed to keep the super rich from paying any taxes but, because of the failure to index the measure for inflation, it has crept into the middle class. But he effectively resurrects the measure using a different name, which would affect millions of Americans. He also would boost the standard deduction but simultaneously erode other popular write-offs, such as mortgage interest and charitable giving. According to the NTU, 'families who would qualify as upper middle class in many metro areas would see their tax rates go as high as 44 percent, compared to the 35 percent or less they are now paying.'

The NTU reports Count Rangula's claim that '91 million families' will benefit from his tax scheme, but that number includes a spending giveaway to millions receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit, which are households that pay no taxes. Count Rangula is playing the familiar liberal Democratic class warfare game, which punishes the productive while subsidizing the nonproductive (but able-bodied).

According to The Heritage Foundation's J.D. Foster, there are a few 'roses' in the proposed legislation. Among them is a reduction in the corporate income tax rate from the current 35 percent to 30.5 percent. It needs to be lower, because the U.S. corporate tax rate is among the highest of the industrialized nations, and high tax rates hurt the ability of American businesses to compete internationally. But the proposed lower rate is at least a move in the right direction.

Count Rangula's fangs come out when he proposes a 4 percent surtax on married filers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) above $200,000 (4.6 percent for higher-earning taxpayers). While recognizing the benefits of lower corporate tax rates, he simultaneously proposes rate increases for individuals and small businesses. And the surtax applies to AGI, not taxable income.

There's plenty more not to like and more thorough analyses will be forthcoming when details of the measure have been fully digested. The measure is unlikely to pass in an election year, but it gives taxpayers an indication of where Democrats will take us if one of their own wins the White House. They will spend more and tax more, much more.

While Republicans surrendered the spending issue when they controlled Congress, they still have the tax issue. They'll need it to repel Count Rangula. Garlic, a cross, sunshine and a stake may not be enough.

E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at calthomas@tribune.com.